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On flirt­ing for can­cer

Iwas in the bar of the Shel­bourne Ho­tel re­cently. The last time I’d been there was ‘re­search’ for a news­pa­per ar­ti­cle — two dat­ing ex­perts were show­ing me how they train sin­gle­tons to up their game. I, heart a-pound­ing, fol­lowed the in­struc­tions I’d been given. Scan the room for the guy you find most at­trac­tive, think of an opener, ap­proach and get chat­ting — that was the idea. Nat­u­rally, the opener wouldn’t be of the ‘so this woman you’re hold­ing hands with... is she a spouse or just some lass you tripped over a mo­ment ago?’ Guys without gals, who might be open to your ‘hello’ was what I was af­ter. (Al­though don’t talk to me about my de­funct gay­dar... that’s an­other story.)

To cut the saga short, I was sur­prised how easy it was: that once you get over the ‘I think I’m go­ing to faint/com­bust/ barf with nerves’ bit, it’s not that hard to ap­proach an at­trac­tive to­tal stranger and nat­ter. It’s in our na­ture as brainy apes to be cu­ri­ous, open to con­nec­tion, to throw words at each other be­cause, fun­da­men­tally, it’s craic. Think of the words as ba­nanas and imagine you’re in the Serengeti, if that helps (that wasn’t one of their ideas; I just made it up now).

I needed help — I’d never re­ally done it be­fore be­cause I’d al­ways con­sid­ered my­self a use­less flirt. Gor­geous­ness in a man makes me tonguetied. And I al­ways har­boured the pas­sive fem­i­nine no­tion that if the man was the Mr Right, he’d come over to me , and we’d pro­ceed seam­lessly into True Love from there: the ‘if it’s right, you don’t have to try’ myth. So, I found that es­capade very em­pow­er­ing. I can’t wait to try it in Real Life, I told my ‘train­ers’. Who knew what might hap­pen! In­deed. Next thing I had can­cer ( have I men­tioned that be­fore? ha ha!) and, well, the mood to flirt kind of left me.

Fun­nily enough, a cou­ple of years later, t’was the can­cer had me back in the plush love­li­ness of the Shel­bourne. In my ca­pac­ity as one of The Nualas, I’d been check­ing out one of the ho­tel’s func­tion rooms for our up­com­ing in­volve­ment in an Ir­ish Can­cer So­ci­ety Emer­gency Fundrais­ing Event. Emer­gency? Yep — the weather on the main fundrais­ing Daf­fodil Day this year was apoc­a­lyp­tic and the amount raised was 50 per cent lower than usual — a €1 mil­lion short­fall. These funds are re­quired for es­sen­tial ser­vices for can­cer pa­tients and their fam­i­lies: free nurs­ing for pa­tients at home; fi­nan­cial sup­port; help with trans­porta­tion to and from chemo­ther­apy treat­ment, es­pe­cially in ru­ral ar­eas; the run­ning

The only man I’ve had a crush on since I got can­cer was the plas­tic sur­geon who did my breast re­con­struc­tion

of Daf­fodil Cen­tres in many hos­pi­tals and putting can­cer pa­tients in touch with sur­vivors in the peer sup­port pro­gramme, not to men­tion, fund­ing the Na­tional Can­cer Helpline, which last year an­swered more than 22,000 calls.

This par­tic­u­lar event the spe­cial ‘emer­gency com­mit­tee’ is or­gan­is­ing is a glam­orous shindig, the Hal­loween Mas­quer­ade. Dress in your finest, don a mys­te­ri­ous mask, en­joy a red- car­pet and bub­bly re­cep­tion, a three-course meal, en­ter­tain­ment from us, a big-name co­me­dian host, a band, a disco un­til late, plus an auc­tion of fab stuff. I met two of the four-mem­ber com­mit­tee, Li­agh Miller, who was di­ag­nosed and treated for stage- three breast can­cer five years ago, and Eoin Fen­nessy, who has a ma­lig­nant brain tu­mour and is cur­rently in treat­ment. Can­cer wasn’t all we had in com­mon, also a love of a drink and a chat, and then, why not, an­other drink. Hence the bar.

I told them about my last ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing there, how I thought a whole new world of men had opened up, but since my Big C, fel­las have been off my agenda. The only man I’ve had a crush on since was the plas­tic sur­geon who did my breast re­con­struc­tion, which feels silly (the crush, not the boob). ‘Have you had crushes on your doc­tors?’ I asked Li­agh and Eoin. No, said Li­agh, run­ning through an ex­plana­tory de­scrip­tion of those she’d en­coun­tered, in­clud­ing one who ‘looked like Harry Pot­ter’, and an­other who was Pro­fes­sor Crown. Eoin hadn’t ei­ther, but he said if a fe­male sur­geon re­con­structed his ‘men’s bits’ (not his ex­act words), he’d fall in love with her too. Oh, okay, I don’t feel that silly, then…

Back in the real world, I said I’d show them, us­ing my rusty train­ing, how easy it is to in­sin­u­ate your­self into the com­pany of male strangers. It just so hap­pened a jovial gang of al­pha-male types had en­tered the bar. ‘Oil in­dus­try,’ I was think­ing. ‘Are you Nor­we­gian?’ I asked one, who looked like he might be from Nor­way (sear­ingly flirty, I know). No, he wasn’t. The lads weren’t ‘oil’ but, let’s just say, ‘high fi­nance’. I thought, ‘ bingo’ for my new fundrais­ing chums and dragged him over to meet the ‘com­mit­tee’. He kindly shared con­tacts that might help Li­agh and Eoin in their ef­forts and even agreed to pur­chase a ta­ble at the event. ‘I just flirted for can­cer,’ I thought, hap­pily. Next step, do­ing it for my­self. Now, just imagine, it’s the Serengeti, ba­nanas... Ir­ish Can­cer So­ci­ety Hal­loween Mas­quer­ade, 1 Nov. Tick­ets €85 from can­­line-shop or call Eoin on 086 372 7555. All ICS ser­vices can be ac­cessed by call­ing 1800 200 700

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